Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Digital Retail

No, this is not about ecommerce. I know the title could be a bit misleading, hence I wanted to clarify upfront that I am not going to write about ecommerce.

How many times we return from shopping and realize that you forgot to buy something or realize that you have run out of that favorite shampoo which you did not put in your shopping list. Many a time, I wish the aisles in the store would magically rearrange and I could straight away find what I need without reaching out to a store assistant. These were the problems that I was trying to solve when I came about this flash on a digitally enhanced store assistant on my mobile device.

The concept is the user (someone like me) creates a shopping list in a retailer website, mobile site gets synchronized on the app (if not already entered using the app). When the user walks into the store, the ibeacon identifies the user and links the app to the store planogram. The Augmented reality enabled app then highlights the exact spots in the store where the products that the user is interested in by overlaying highlights using the store background. It also creates the shortest pathway to complete the shopping faster. Enroute the shopping path, there are opportunities for the retailer to highlight the most relevant offers that the user is most likely to be interested in, and highlighted products that the user typically buys but did not have on the list (as a reminder). The different product listing could be color coded differently, for example the items on the shopping list – red, promotions and offers – amber, and the reminder (personalized recommendations) in green, etc.

This augmented reality app digitally enhances the user’s physical shopping experience. Though there are already apps that use augmented reality to highlight offers and products, the concept of using augmented reality to personalize the shopping route and experience of the user is what I would like to propagate.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Taming the ever moving marketing target

There was an interesting question rather a challenge that I came across recently, well I guess it has been a challenge for a long time, however, this was the first time I heard the challenge articulated so well. The challenge was “How will you programmatically improve marketing while continuously capturing and learning from the iterations”. Well in a way how to focus and again refocus as a team on an ever moving target.
Well the task of customer engagement is an interesting conundrum, because everything is dynamic about it. The customers are growing in their lives from being a student to a bread winner, from living in a downtown apartment to moving out to the suburbs, driving a motorbike to a sedan. They are moving to different cities, states or perhaps even countries. Their consumption of media is changing faster than we realize. My dad read the same newspaper his entire adult life; I switched from watching news on the television to the internet and now the mobile device; And how my kinds perceive and consume media is completely different.
Then again our brands are constantly evolving as well, IBM went from being calculators & mainframe computers to software & consulting services, Apple from a computer to a mobile device, while some are not so drastically as the Xerox, IBM and the Apples' of the world, but nevertheless evolving to a greater or lesser degree because of market conditions, social pressure, acquisitions, mergers, or perhaps even plain boredom.
I don’t think I need to talk separately about technology which is evolving atleast on a daily basis if not quicker. Well I guess I have driven home the message that our target of customer engagement is ever changing.
Now, if you focus internally, everyone realizes that the resources who work on the brand and marketing teams are also changing constantly. I will not even go into the topic of the multiple restructures/ realignment each organization/ team goes through. Then how do we keep the marketing campaigns and brand positioning relevant in the minds of the customer.
The topic of continuous iteration and customer engagement improvement could be handled in two important ways. Firstly enable technology to record the finer interactions and iterations that they do with the customer communication captured at a detailed iteration level as well as at a high level learning from a bunch of tactical campaigns/ marketing initiatives. There are knowledge management tools and ticketing tools when leveraged by the marketing teams with right training and governance could facilitate efficient record keeping. Secondly develop process and the discipline of recording these  abstract findings and quips that the teams learn through the multitude interactions with the customer engagement improvement exercise which could be by the way of campaigns, AB/ MVT tests, customer experience management tools, data analytics report findings, qualitative research findings.
Enterprises could derive immense value by just following the above two in keeping the continuity in our learning about our customers and brands. The next level would be to mine this knowledge base using indexing/ scoring mechanisms to develop algorithms based on text mining to pull right tip/ campaign learning before launching a new one or even have predictive capabilities that alerts when a campaign needs to launched or applications that use the database to spit out possible media mix models or campaign ideas. Well all this may sound futuristic and daunting, but everything starts small before it gains momentum. The time is right to plant this seed.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Innovation Showcase - "Tracking in PDF"

 Recently, I had the good fortune to present on an innovative solution that was developed by some *great minds part of the competency I belong to. I presented the solution at the “Partner innovation showcase 2015” in the annual Adobe Summit held in Salt lake City, March 9th 2015. This solution was on how we could track customer behavior on PDF, while click stream tracking and analytics based on the same has been a main stream analytics solution, till now no one ventured in the realm of “in-PDF” tracking.

“In-PDF tracking” can have multiple use cases especially for B2B companies that provide rich content to their site visitors in terms of white paper downloads. We all know that it is common practice for these companies to track their prospect behavior on how many times they visit the site/ app from which device and do they then download a whitepaper or webinar, etc. Imagine, if we could stitch this with how many times the prospect opens the whitepaper, the interaction on the white paper like filling in a form or forwarding it to friend, etc. Now this insight is possible if the user interacts with the pdf while they are online.

 Well the solution is not limited to B2B sites, it can very well translate to Medical/ Pharma sites that provide additional information on the product/ drug/ prescription to health care professionals or even patients by PDF downloads. An analysis to validate if these additional documents are put to effective use or not, can save huge costs to these companies. Further there are several financial companies that require users to download forms as pdf and then send it over by post after duly signing them. This would directly relate to the revenue potential for the financial companies.

One big area for which this solution was originally developed was in the field of online coupon printing business. I did not know that this online couponing is such a huge business giving out *329 billion coupons in 2013 alone and out of this close to 2.9 billion coupons were redeemed. This apparently resulted in savings worth 3.7 billion dollars to the consumers. This was a huge revelation for me, as I was not aware that the simple coupon that I throw away very often is such large industry both as a business as well as impactful marketing tool. The below cartoon strip puts the emotions associated with coupons in a light yet powerful manner.

 The website tracking is usually done using HTTPGET method, the solution that was developed completely flipped this over and derived the data and information from the PDF documents using the HTTPPOST method. The fact that we can stitch the visitor sessions using the cross device visitor identification methodology, we were able to seamlessly track the visitor behavior across the browser and the pdf irrespective of, whether the pdf was opened using the browser or the desktop application.

Further the possibility of using this technique to track other applications like pdf has opened a whole new world of opportunities and possibilities for the digital marketer.

* Kamal Chembath
*  Courtesy: inmar 2014 Coupon Trends